it is a dark and not at all stormy night…

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

every day i go through a little dance with myself in order to find the motivation to work on the things i really want to be doing right now even though i know i should also be spending more time focusing on making money.

i have spent a good bit of time in these past few months sticking my tongue out at the whole “making money” thing, and i think i’ve just about got the nyah, nyah bug out of my system. i can acknowledge that my current patterns are unsustainable (and waiting for an unknown uncle to bequeath me a castle is always best as fallback-plan rather than centerpiece-of-financial-portfolio), and that i don’t seem all that driven to find short-term work in portland for some reason, so i had kind of given myself an end-of-year deadline on deciding whether i am going to stay or move.

in that spirit, and with the “make money” script running as well, the other day i started applying for holiday work around town, but then i realized that i am going to be in florida for nearly a week in november, and i am most likely going back again for christmas, and there is really nothing on my calendar in portland for december other than “become progressively annoyed with the rain.” so…

i made the decision that i really should just give my notice on my apartment, move out at the end of the month, and pursue living arrangements that do not require me to pay rent until such time that i have secured gainful employment.

that decision made me feel good, but there remains a playful “i see your bluff, and i call” twinkle in my eye that the nyah, nyah bug has made difficult to see, and the fact that i am feeling about ready to lay down this hand does not at all mean that i am second guessing my game.

this summer has been very, very, good for me, and i am not so much walking away from the paths i have been teaching myself to walk as i am taking the time to prune and weed the garden that i am learning to plant as i go. that is the dance of finding motivation that began this post. it takes energy each day, but at some point, one message i always come to is “write more,” “write anything,” “write every single day.”

i was remembering this message this morning when kevin says to twitter he says:

WTF am I thinking?? I just signed up for NaNoWriMo.

and i says right back:

@kmakice WTF are you thinking, indeed?! I’M the one who should do that! In fact this is the first year i’m not too overcommitted. hmmm…

NaNoWriMo, you see, for those of you who have not followed the link yet, is a brilliant project wherein some folks try to get you to commit to writing a novel over the course of the month of November. NaNoWriMo is funspeak for “National Novel Writing Month”, and i realized when i was thinking about it today that the idea is really the same as the idea behind the one hour essay project: use the power of a community of accountability to get people to write stuff they already want to write anyway but usually make excuses about. NaNoWriMo is just on a way bigger scale and has a way better name. but NatEsWriHo doesn’t really roll off the tongue very well, so i think i can be forgiven.

anyway, the actual commitment is to write 50,000 words of fiction between November 1 and November 30, and i have thought about doing it for many years, but i always felt like grad school or work or the fact that i was out of the country and changing where i slept every few days were sufficient excuses to defer. today, however, i woke up saying to myself “you are going to keep working on your own projects for the rest of november” and “write more” so when kevin reminded me about NaNoWriMo and i realized that it was indeed november 1, it kinda felt like the universe could not possibly have hit me on the head with a bigger stick.

so what can i say?
i listened.
i have officially pledged to write myself a novel this month.
and move out.
and keep working on a web project with a friend of mine.
and go to florida for my mother’s ordination.
and enjoy some birthdays and turkey days with the fine, fine folk here in stumptown.
because of all the things that have kept me pulling for a reason to stay for a while, they are the only ones that ever really mattered, and i will miss them deeply and visit whenever i can.

so here’s to friends, freedom, and fifty-thousand fucking words.

because if i write a novel this month i will not even care if pirates ransack all of my possessions and leave me penniless on the plank.
i will do a swan dive and swim across the sea because i will be just that cool.


“don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget”

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

this post suffered from draft dodging, so it’s a bit old, but i wanted to finish and post it anyway:

i’ve been engaging in an interesting little political exercise over the past couple of days.

firstly, as a backdrop, i should tell you that david and i are conducting what we call “liberty class” as a part of my unofficial self-administered phD project. we have both become interested in the revival of interest in libertarian thought that seems to be occurring with increasing regularity among the generation that is now coming of professional age, perhaps most prominently in the business philosophy of john mackey, CEO of whole foods, but first really registering on my radar through the journalistic commentary of jonathan rauch.

because of jonathan rauch, actually, i first subscribed to reason magazine a few years ago (fwiw, rauch was very recently interviewed by reason on, in his own words “my philosophy of everything,” and the interview can be found here), and because i talked about articles and ideas from the magazine somewhat often, david picked up the subscription when i left the country for a while, and it became the first shared text for what would evolve into our liberty class.

somewhere in those same past few years, david took a few crosscountry drives and listened to atlas shrugged on tape in the car. i listened to book one (of three) before we took it back to the library, and agreed to read the whole thing eventually so that we could talk about it more, a committment which i finally honored just last week, and about which i intend to write a paper soon. in the meantime, david listened to another book on tape – Libertarianism: A Primer, which is a new book by one of the head honchos at the cato institute that was written to take advantage of the aforementioned revival in interest amongst the new generation. david also started doing things like reading john stuart mill for fun.

so class is in session, eh?

anyway, anyway, anyway, the political exercise in which i have been engaging over the last few days is listening to Libertarianism: A Primer for the liberty class while also watching the youtube/cnn debate that was held last monday night for the current democratic presidential candidates.

commentary on the format of the debate aside (which is a big aside… internet media coverage of this election is going to be a fascinating thing), this has been an interesting experience. i haven’t put much time into thinking about the election yet, and i think that is partly because i don’t really know how my shifting politics will impact my behavior in the upcoming months, and i have been postponing thinking about it all that much.

as a longtime (as longtime as one can be at 28) bleeding heart liberal and proud of it, it’s hard to contemplate association with a political philosophy that many people i respect see as tantamount to treason, or at least as selling out or succumbing to a nice brainwash. it’s hard for a lot of reasons that will take a long time to fully explore, but one of the top reasons has to do with money, and it is money that inspired me to write this post.

i am coming to believe, you see, that the liberal camp does quite a bit of damage by going to such lengths to distance itself from the pursuit of wealth. i agree that there are many important things in life that money cannot buy, and fixating on money as the sole pathway to happiness is silly, but neither of those beliefs imply that money itself is evil, and the idea that caring about profit requires not caring about people is dangerous in its ability to disarm us of the very tools most crucial to our defense.

money is a tool, and like any tool it is wielded most powerfully by those who are not afraid to grasp it with purpose. we could make a statement about the potential danger of sharp blades by refusing to learn how to hold a sword properly and flailing around wildly whenever anyone hands us one as a show of studied ignorance, but we are much more likely to lose fingers that way than if we allow ourselves to grip the handle firmly and learn to gauge the weight and edge for ourselves. perhaps more tragically, however, if we don’t take the time to learn such control, we place ourselves at the mercy of other’s protection in times of danger, and we open ourselves up to being fleeced in the process.

i think this happens a lot with people, myself included, who sometimes wear poor money management as a sort of badge of pride. “oh, i just don’t want to bother worrying about such things” is the ultimate statement of privilege, and we can’t really complain about the concentration of wealth in the hands of conservatives as long as we ourselves refuse to put effort towards the accumulation of our own. if we honestly don’t want to play the money game, that’s fine. i’m going to burning man this month (which operates on a gift economy), and i am quite happy to support models of community where something other than money is the focus of interaction. at the same time, however, i think that money is not an idea that should be tossed aside simply because it is possible (or even probable) for people to use it irresponsibly, and i don’t think that it is fair for us to shame people for their pursuit of wealth and then turn around and tell them that we think they should spend it on things they don’t really value.

bottom line: if we think money can do some good, let’s shut up and work on getting our own; if we really don’t think money is the answer, let’s stop asking for people to give it to us.

anyway, this is turning into quite the rant, and i know i need to take the time to articulate myself more clearly and succinctly. i know, for instance, that there are many liberals who are quite happy to manage their money and do so with aplomb, particularly among the rising tide of my own generation (which is indeed why the increased interest in libertarianism is so intriguing). i also know that this is a rather unintuitive position for me to be honing during a time of voluntary unemployment and self-imposed poverty, and to that argument i can only offer my word that reconciling that conflict is indeed the focus of my current energies, and i’m doing it the best way i see how. so perhaps irate commenters will provide me with the motivation to clarify my positions as i go. :)

in the meantime, i exercise my license to blather about ideas in progress, and i now turn to the actual source of inspiration for this post, which was a comment joe biden makes in the following clip about taxes:

the comment, as i’m sure the title of this post has already revealed, is his father’s quote: “don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget” which is really basically just the flipside of “put your money where your mouth is.”

i started thinking about all of this because my kneejerk reaction to that quote was a kind of snorting noise, driven by an emotional upswell on the order of: “as if Money is the most meaningful reflection of my values!!”, to which the part of me that was also listening to libertarianism: a primer, promptly rebutted: “hold up, who said anything about most. what does your budget reflect if not your values? why does the idea that you should be open about money make you defensive?”

and that really got me started. why do i relinquish the decisions about where my money goes to the goverment anyway?! why don’t i see it as my responsibility to ensure that i am supporting my values in whatever ways i can?! how do i get off telling people that they don’t know how to handle their wealth when i don’t even want to look at how much i spend on candy or beer because i might not like what i see?!

and the clincher revealing the true extent of my current political shift:
what makes me think that supporting my values is anyone’s job but my own?

basically, if i choose to spend money but i’m not certain that my budget reflects my values, how can i honestly say that i know what my values are? wearing a blindfold when we open our pocketbooks because we associate money with depravity and we’d rather be above it is ridiculous and irresponsible, and i just need to grow the hell up.

this led me to two immediate conclusions:

1) the complexity and obscurity of the national budget is a disgrace
2) i should follow senator biden’s advice

so herein begins a monthly experiment in disclosure:

Kynthia's July Budget

i need to figure out how to wrap in credit card expenses, which are unfortunately rising this month due to aforementioned unemployment. and i’ll try to break down “other” a bit more.

but it’s a start, eh?

we can talk about whether this means i’m turning against taxes later. :)